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Confidence-Increasing Elements in User Instructions: Seniors' Reactions to Verification Steps and Personal Stories

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Purpose: Research shows that confidence-increasing elements in user instructions positively influence senior users' task performance and motivation. We added verification steps and personal stories to user instructions for a cell phone, to find out how seniors (between 60 and 70 years) perceive these confidence-increasing motivational elements. Verification steps allow users to check if a procedure was carried out correctly. Personal stories describe how a fictitious user succeeded in completing a procedure.

Method: The plus-minus method was used. Participants were asked to place pluses and minuses in cell phone user instructions to indicate their positive and negative reading experiences, and to explain their choices afterwards.

Results: Verification steps are regarded as other, common parts of user instructions by seniors. Nineteen out of 20 participants appreciate verification steps, and they mainly encourage providing these because they are expected to decrease doubts, and increase user confidence and satisfaction. Personal stories tend to stand out compared to other, common parts of user instructions. Thirteen out of 20 participants appreciate personal stories, which use is mainly discouraged for redundancy reasons, and encouraged for their expected positive effects on user confidence and motivation.

Conclusion: The use of verification steps and personal stories in user instructions seems acceptable to seniors. As a next step, it seems worth it to test for effects of these motivational elements on usability, user confidence and motivation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2013

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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